Acting as an Attorney or Deputy During Coronavirus Outbreak
Acting safely as a Deputy or Attorney during the Coronavirus outbreak is concerning for many. However, outside the need to follow robust social distancing regime, shielding and self-isolating when necessary; the roles and responsibilities for Deputies and Attorneys remain the same.
Responsibilities During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Working closely with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Office of the Public Guardian’s (OPG) latest advice emphasises the need for continuity during the Coronavirus outbreak. But what does this mean in practice?
If the person (or ‘donor’) you are Deputy or Attorney for is self-isolated or shielded, or you are in this position yourself, it’s clear-cut. You must continue to make decisions for the person. You can’t ask anyone else to make decisions for them.
Stepping Down From Your Role Temporarily or Permanently
Also, it’s not possible to temporarily step down from the role. Just because you can’t visit the donor in the present circumstances doesn’t absolve you of your responsibilities. You can, however, step down permanently:
- As an Attorney, you are entitled to permanently ‘disclaim’ your role;
- If you’re a Deputy, it is also possible to permanently end your deputyship by applying to the Court of Protection.
Clearly this is a very serious decision to make. So, think very carefully before proceeding. Once the decision is made, you can’t reverse it and the donor could be left without appropriate support in place.
Practicalities of Social Distancing or Self-Isolation
In practical terms, it’s perfectly fine to ask someone to help you with everyday jobs you’re used to doing; such as shopping, going to the bank or paying in a cheque.
No doubt we’ve all read harrowing reports about how lonely the elderly and vulnerable have been during the outbreak. If it’s possible, maintaining some face-to-face contact using FaceTime or APPs such as Skype or Zoom, may reassure the individual. Alternatively, write a note or drop a card off, to let them know that everything is in hand.
Health & Welfare Decisions
As you’re no doubt aware, if you’re a Health & Welfare Attorney or Deputy you can make (or help the donor, make) decisions about:
- Daily tasks, including washing, dressing and eating
- Their medical care
- Where the donor lives
It may be tempting at present, given the restrictions in place, to tell a health or care provider to use their resources to help the donor. This is a breach of the regulations. Remember, it’s your responsibility to make a decision about the donor’s care or medical treatment. The decision must be made in the donor’s best interests, following the principles of the Mental Capacity Act.
If you are a Property and Financial affairs Attorney or Deputy, there are strict rules you must follow about using the donor’s money.
As an Attorney, you are governed by the terms of the Lasting Power of Attorney. As a Deputy, your decision-making powers are governed by your court order. And you must keep detailed financial records and submit annual accounts to the Court of Protection.
The Coronavirus outbreak and restrictions placed on all of us as a result, do not alter the responsibilities or rules governing the role and responsibilities of a Property and Financial affairs Deputy or Attorney. They remain the same; you must adhere to them and always act in the donor’s best interests.
Our Help & Advice
If you are an Attorney or Deputy, and you need advice on any Deputyship or Attorney issue, our specialist team is a call away. It’s very much ‘business as usual’. As Key Workers, whilst our offices are currently closed, we’re operating pretty much as usual; over the phone, via email and arranging face-to-face using Video Appointments.
Further, if you’re thinking about drawing up Lasting Powers of Attorney, and you’re considering the benefits of appointing a professional Attorney; we’re very happy to talk through any concerns you may have, so please do get in touch.
Please note that all views, comments or opinions expressed are for information only and do not constitute and should not be interpreted as being comprehensive or as giving legal advice. No one should seek to rely or act upon, or refrain from acting upon, the views, comments or opinions expressed herein without first obtaining specialist, professional or independent advice. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Curtis Parkinson cannot be held liable for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies.